166 people in Singapore being investigated for involvement in loan sharking

Police said that loan sharks are increasingly using text messaging or online platforms to send unsolicited loan advertisements.
Police said that loan sharks are increasingly using text messaging or online platforms to send unsolicited loan advertisements. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE- A total of 166 suspects are being investigated for their alleged involvement in loan-sharking activities, one of whom provided false information that led to an innocent person being harassed.

The police said in a statement on Monday (July 26) night that these people, aged between 15 and 69, were caught in a two-week crackdown on unlicensed moneylending activities between July 12 and 25.

Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department and the seven police land divisions conducted raids at the same time islandwide and hauled in the suspects.

Of the 166 suspects, preliminary investigations revealed that 15 are believed to have conducted harassment at debtors' residences and 28 are said to have been runners who assisted unlicensed moneylenders by carrying out automated teller machine (ATM) transfers.

One suspect allegedly provided false contact information that led to an innocent victim being harassed at home, and another suspect is believed to have operated an unlicensed moneylending business issuing loans to several borrowers in Singapore.

The other 121 suspects allegedly opened bank accounts and provided their ATM cards, personal identification numbers (PINs) or Internet banking tokens to unlicensed moneylenders for their businesses.

Under the Moneylenders Act, a person who allows his or her bank account, ATM card or Internet banking token to be used to facilitate moneylending by an unlicensed moneylender is presumed to have assisted in the business of unlicensed moneylending.

First-time offenders found guilty of assisting in a business of unlicensed moneylending can face a jail term of up to four years, a fine of between $30,000 and $300,000, and caning of up to six strokes.

First-time offenders found guilty of committing or attempting to commit acts of harassment on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender can face a jail term of up to five years, a fine of between $5,000 and $50,000, and caning of between three and six strokes.

The police said that loan sharks are increasingly using text messaging or online platforms to send unsolicited loan advertisements. They reminded the public to not respond to such advertisements and report them as spam.

The public can call the police on 999 or the X-Ah Long hotline on 1800-924-5664 if they suspect or know of anyone who could be involved in illegal loan-sharking activities.